AGL picks of the week: Ali Khaseif stars, Makhete Diop astounds

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Ali Khaseif (#1) made his return to football following three months out of the game.

Our Arabian Gulf League reporter Matt Monaghan decides his picks of the week in the three categories: player, goal and coach of the week.

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Player of the week
Ali Khaseif (Al Jazira)

The UAE and Pride of Abu Dhabi skipper played for the first time in three months on Thursday night, providing an unbeatable presence as a 2-0 defeat was inflicted on Arabian Gulf League champions Al Ahli.

Both injury and national service have kept Khaseif away, his time with the military evident in his noticeably sleeker frame.

He showed great athleticism throughout, an Ahmed Khalil penalty save the highlight.

Goal of the week
Makhete Diop (Al Dhafra)

It is evident every time you see the Senegal international that you are witnessing a player who deserves a grander stage than mid-table Dhafra can provide.

The striker registered his 100th goal for his club in breathtaking fashion, scoring from the half-way line during the 1-1 draw against leaders Al Ain.

His powerful, dipping effort left UAE goalkeeper Khalid Essa with no chance.

Coach of the week
Gabriel Calderon (Al Wasl)

Calderon has drilled the Cheetahs to press hard and pass intelligently, regista Hugo Viana and Brazilian forward Fabio De Lima the stars.

Wasl put on a near-perfect display against fourth-placed Al Wahda, securing a dominant 3-0 triumph.

They are strong outsiders for May’s President’s Cup.

Tit-bits
Chance for Ali to experiment

Continuity is UAE coach Mahdi Ali’s greatest strength. But change could be forced upon him, the much-delayed Arabian Gulf Super Cup between Al Ahli and Al Ain coming towards the end of the international break between March 23-31.

And up to two-thirds of his Asian Cup squad could be engaged.

This would be great news for the likes of Al Shabab defender Mohammed Ayed, Al Nasr’s Tariq Ahmed and Bani Yas loanee Bandar Al Ahbabi.

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AGL round-up: Al Ain held by Al Dhafra, Al Shabab edge Bani Yas

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Goal of the season contender: Al Dhafra's Makhete Diop scored a spectacular goal against Al Ain.

Striker Makhete Diop scored one of the finest goals in Arabian Gulf League history as Al Dhafra held leaders Al Ain to a 1-1 draw last night.

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Diop, 26, rocketed in from the half-way line to give the hosts an 11th-minute lead.

His incredible dipped shot left UAE goalkeeper Khalid Essa with no chance, the Senegal international registering his 100th goal for the Western Knights in memorable style.

It took a cruelly-deflected Jires Kembo Ekoko strike to see Al Ain level just before the hour mark. 

The Boss then piled forward in search of a winner to prevent their advantage over Al Jazira being cut to four points, though they came within inches of a damaging defeat when Iraq playmaker Humam Tariq rattled the crossbar in the fifth minute of injury time.

Meanwhile, fifth-placed Al Nasr ended a run of three consecutive top-flight draws thanks to left-back Mahmoud Khamis’ solitary strike at Fujairah.

Khamis, 27, drilled in a trademark free-kick in just the second minute to set the Blue Wave up for victory. 

Striker Ibrahima Toure then squandered a glaring chance to claim his 12th strike of a typically productive AGL campaign when he shot wide from close range, while Khaleil Khameis’ thunderous effort rattled the woodwork for the hosts.

Loanee Marion Silva opened his account for Sharjah as they were held to a 1-1 draw by third-bottom Emirates Club

The Falcons took the lead on 71 minutes through Mohamed Malalla Hassan, only for the Atletico Mineiro-owned forward to level soon after.

Shabab pile on the misery for Bani Yas

Perfect 10: Al Shabab’s Luvannor (l) scored his 10th league goal.

Pressure is continuing to mount on boss Luis Garcia after third-placed Al Shabab inflicted a fourth-successive Arabian Gulf League defeat on ailing Bani Yas.

Moldova forward Henrique Luvannor scored the only goal at Maktoum bin Rashid Al Maktoum Stadium, finishing from an acute angle on 36 minutes after skipping round goalkeeper Mohsin Al Hashmi.

Spaniard Garcia was a picture of frustration on the touchline after the break, gesticulating wildly with his hands and urging his side to equalise. 

But no leveller was forthcoming, Denis Stracqualursi wasting the best chance with a limp shot from Haboush Saleh’s centre.

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Al Jazira's Gerets not giving up on AGL title

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Eric Gerets' side suffered a major setback in defeat to Al Ain last week

Al Jazira will scrap all the way to ensure they remain in the battle for the Arabian Gulf League title despite last Sunday’s devastating defeat to leaders Al Ain, according to defiant coach Eric Gerets.

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The Pride of Abu Dhabi slipped six points behind their rivals with only eight games to play when they fell to an Omar Abdulrahman-inspired 2-1 loss last Sunday.

This continued an awful run of three consecutive reversals in all competitions, the second-placed side being shocked 2-1 at home by Al Dhafra and exiting the AFC Champions League at the qualifying stage. Next in line are AGL title holders Al Ahli at Mohammed bin Zayed Stadium today (Thursday).

Gerets insisted his troops were undaunted by their recent failures, the pain inspiring them to return to winning ways immediately.

“We will keep fighting until the end,” Gerets vowed. “We will focus only on ourselves and will fight to win our remaining matches to keep putting pressure on Al Ain.

“The good thing is we will play again after a few days, which means we have a chance for a quick recovery and also to prove that what happened in the last two rounds was just a stumble.”

Gerets chose to focus on his team’s situation when discussing the clash, declaring they have to be in a position to strike if Al Ain begin dropping points.

He said: “Al Ahli are improving and achieved a big victory in their last match. For them, this game is very important because they want to prove that they are on the right track again.

“But for us, it’s more important because we want to keep the points difference with Al Ain as it is now and wait for it be minimised in the coming rounds.”

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